“You Be the Chemist” is an academic contest that encourages fifth- through eighth-grade students to explore important chemistry, science, technology, engineering and math concepts and their real world applications, said Copper Mill Elementary School gifted science teacher Aimee Perrodin.

“The challenge is a unique opportunity for a variety of community partners — schools, higher education, community groups and industry — to come together and show their support for STEM education,” said Perrodin.

Five Zachary students were chosen to compete at the regional level of “You Be the Chemist” held March 21 at LSU.

Sixth-grader Janae D’Arensbourg and fifth-grader Ian Pope represented Copper Mill while Northwestern Middle School’s Jon Clark Baker, Colt Crain and Summer Troth were each nominated by an eighth-grade science teacher.

“My two students were nominated to participate because we didn’t have a school-level competition like we will next year,” Perrodin said. “We found out about the competition a week before the event, and because there were no representatives from Zachary, Copper Mill and Northwestern Middle were given the opportunity to compete in hopes of sparking interest in all our students and to see what the overall experience was like.”

Northwestern Middle science teacher Lisa McGehee said she met with her students twice to help get them prepared and to answer any questions they had.

The students were given a 96-page study guide from LSU sponsors and had a week to prepare. Challenge content aligns to the Next Generation Science Standards and includes science concepts covered in many state assessments, such as the scientific method; properties of matter; chemical formulas and equations; and chemistry in the human body.

At the challenge, participants answered questions in a quiz bowl format using a handheld device and were scored as an entire group, ranking the students on percentage of correct answers.

“You Be the Chemist” included seven rounds with the top three or four students advancing to the state competition.

D’Arensbourg and Pope studied for the competition in their spare time while also preparing for the first phase of PARCC testing and made it to the third and fourth rounds.

“I’m extremely proud of them,” Perrodin said.

Crain made it to the final round, finishing third overall, while Troth finished in the top 11 and Baker in the top 16.

“This was the first time any of our students competed in this competition, and they did a great job representing NMS,” said McGehee. “We are very proud of all our participants.”

Crain advances to the state challenge April 25 at LSU where he will represent Zachary and NMS.